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Recognizing Codependency

Signs and Symptoms
There are many ways of describing codependency and some of these descriptions are confusing because they overlap with ways of interacting that are quite healthy or cultural in their origin. 

Many unhealthy interactions have low self-worth at their core rooted in emotional neglect, fear of abandonment, rejection and other underlying issues that are often the result of family dynamics in childhood.  

Some traits often associated with codependency are:

  • People fixing
  • Emotional reactivity to perceived betrayal
  • Suppressed emotions
  • Poor boundaries
  • Low self-esteem
  • Dependency
  • Self-martyrdom


Codependent traits most often show up in our interactions with others and in our preoccupations.  Do we find our sense of purpose in helping others to the detriment of our own well-being?  

Do we feel as though our very existence is threatened when they leave? 

Do we flare up with resentment and bitterness when our acts of love are not reciprocated? 

Sometimes other people create a mirror that reflects the codependent traits we cannot see or deny.  Those in relationships afflicted with codependency are often perceived as “needy” and “suffocating.”   

When we enter into relationships expecting others to fill the void that was meant to hold our self-worth, it is actually harder to connect to the other person.   That is the essence of objectification.  The relationship isn’t really about them, or us, it’s about me.  We simply cannot use other people to “fix” what ails us deep inside.  

Disorganized Attachment
What we refer to as co-dependent behavior may also be explored in the context of attachment theory  which provides insight into behaviors that stem from early relational dynamics with our infant/childhood caregivers.  Research notes that when a child collapses as a result of disorganized attachment, he or she may reorganize into behavioral strategies to substitute for the attachment system.  This can result in controlling behavior that manifests in certain caregiving strategies we refer to as codependent.  Click here  to read more about attachment therapy.

Narcissistic Abuse
Codependent behavior rarely exists in a vacuum in relationships.  Sometimes it takes two to tango.  There’s a certain safety to sticking with the familiar, even if it’s not what’s best for us.  In familiar settings, there’s at least a feeling of control over what we expect to happen in our behavior and others. 

We are attracted to and attract what keeps us in a state of “status quo.”  If I am a helper, I will feel best in a situation in which a person will tolerate or support my “help.” If I feel uncomfortable focusing attention on my own needs and ask little, then I set myself to be with someone who will take and not give. 

I won’t make demands regarding my needs because I seldom tend to them myself.  This is the set up for the anxious attachment style meeting the avoidant attachment style.  Those with narcissistic  also reflect poor self esteem and are attracted to those who will support putting them at the center of their universe.  They have little desire or capability to tend to another’s emotional needs. 

codependency attachment sadness trauma
codependency emotional neglect relationships
codependency narcissim

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Treating Codependency

Treatment Focus
Understanding our behavior and gaining insight is only part of the recovery process.  Most people seek relief from the emotional disturbances that are embedded in codependent behaviors. 

These are often generated by our internal survival forces.  This is why so many of the resulting emotions take on a sense of urgency and desperation. 

In treatment, we go beyond exploration to address the root causes that drive codependent behaviors. 

This process involves treating underlying trauma that generates chronic negative feelings that fuel feelings of insecurity, incompetency, anxiety and shame.

Group Therapy
We offer online/virtual support that creates safety to identify, learn and process those interactive skills essential for effective communication that sets boundaries for self-care while nurturing relationships. 

Interaction need not be confrontational to get our message across and help a relationship thrive.  Our group therapy offers 90 minutes in which to practice hands-on in the moment progressive relaxation, engage in assertiveness and receive validation and empathy for your journey into recovery. 

Individual Sessions
Each client receives a personalized assessment and roadmap to identify dysfunctional behavior patterns, find direction and discover that meeting emotional needs can be deeply satisfying.  Experiencing our emotions can be empowering and is the cornerstone to building self-trust and confidence.  When we learn to be at ease with ourselves, we can connect to others in an organic way that  allows each member of the relationship to feel seen and heard on their own terms. 

You are worthy of the life that is the real you

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